The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Baseball replay makes too much sense

How many times during a baseball game do you think: "Man, that was close. I hope they show it on replay." Usually, moments later, your wish is granted and technology answers all questions about whether the player is safe or out, or a ball is fair or foul. Unfortunately, the people who really need to see replays - the umpires - don't have that luxury.

This year's Major League Baseball playoffs have included a number of exciting finishes and dramatic games. Even my roommate, who constantly complains about how boring baseball games are, was glued to the television during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels. The postseason, the culmination of a 162-game marathon, magnifies the importance of every pitch, every hit and every call.

But this year, even with All-Star umpiring crews of six men working the games, the boys in blue have been making mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake. It's obviously not intentional, but bad calls thus far this postseason have changed the momentum of games and maybe the outcomes of series. And the sad part is, there's no hiding it. With the freeze-frame technology and super slow-mo video available to fans watching on TV, there is usually no doubt about whether the ump got a call right or wrong.

So why not let the umpires use the best possible tool available to make sure they make the right calls: instant replay. The NFL has done it. College football has done it. The NHL has done it. Even NBA and college basketball referees can use instant replay for game-changing controversial calls. Baseball needs to jump on the bandwagon.

One of the major arguments against the use of replay in baseball is that it would slow down the game. Well - this just in - baseball games are already pretty darn slow-moving. With about 20 or 30 seconds in between every pitch, there is plenty of downtime during the game already. Sure, using instant replay might lengthen the games by a few minutes, but because TV audiences usually see the replay before the next pitch is even thrown, a replay umpire in the press box should be able to take a quick look at a replay monitor, relay the correct call to the on-field umps and get on with the game.

Some baseball purists also argue that the "human element" is part of the game of baseball and replay would take away from that. Guess what? The human element is part of every other sport, too, and they still use replay. And, by the way, instant replay wasn't discovered by gorillas. It was developed by very intelligent humans. Why not take advantage? Certain calls in baseball, such as balls and strikes, can vary from umpire to umpire, but for plays at first base or fair and foul calls, there is no such thing as "I think." It's safe or out. Fair or foul. If video replay is better at getting those things right, then video replay should be used. It really is that simple.

Plus, baseball already uses instant replay for disputed home run calls. If the league is willing to use replay to help get those calls right, why not try to get them all right? It's like buying a new stereo but refusing to turn up the volume all the way. Unless you give it a try, you may never realize the potential benefits.

Based on the repeated errors made during the playoffs this year, I'd bet my measly Collegian paycheck that replay will probably become a reality by next season. MLB commissioner Bud Selig still stands firmly against replay, but as a baseball fan, I can only hope that the Major League owners will get together and make a decision that will benefit the integrity of the game. When you play 162 regular-season games and any number of playoff games, the last thing you want is to have your players, coaches and fans cheated out of their season by a blown call.

I'm not going to spell out the details of how replay should be used, because there are a number of ways to institute it and get the desired result. But, whether they used replay for all close calls, or used a challenge system similar to the one used in football, replay would help the umpires get more calls right. Last time I checked, the whole point of having umpires is to get the calls right as often as possible and keep the game fair, isn't it?

With the development of technology, replay will eventually be a part of baseball. There's no doubt about it. The purists can fight it as long as they want, but all they're doing is delaying the inevitable and retarding the progress of their favorite game in the process.

Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at reilly.moore@richmond.edu

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